While still an undergraduate at Columbia, future Wired magazine co-founder Louis Rossetto co-authored a 1971 New York Times Magazine cover story on "The New Right Credo." In his view, liberalism, conservatism, and "leftist radicalism" had all proven to be bankrupt political philosophies, leaving their "refugees" to coalesce under a new banner: libertarianism. More recently, he is author of Change Is Good: A Story of the Heroic Era of the Internet, a crowdfunded novel he published with legendary designer Erik Spiekermann. Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with Rossetto about his new book and how his political predictions hold up in the era of Donald Trump.
Q: What's so interesting about Change Is Good?
A: I suppose for you, the most interesting thing about the book is the focus on that time. The book is set in the 1990s, this pivotal moment in world history. It was a period of unbelievable optimism.
Q: The Cold War is over. The internet is taking off.
A: There's a sense that the future is utterly malleable. For the first time in a long time, there's this open running room. Any crazy idea is no longer bound by normal restrictions. I mean, companies that had zero income had billion-dollar valuations. You had Bill Clinton saying "the era of big government is over." There were all sorts of things happening in society that were pointing toward a millennial future that was going to be almost utopian. The Gen Xers were adventurers and revolutionaries, consciously looking to travel to a new land and bring back fresh kill for the human race.
Q: People felt like they could do heroic things.
A: It's heroic when you do it in the face of danger, which you also had at the time. Any company could go under at any moment. What was the digital revolution became the dot-com bubble. What was utopian became greed. I'm trying to examine that particular tipping point, between the moment people had fire in their eyes and wanted to change the world and [the moment] they ended up being seduced into pursuing the pure joy of making a lot of money.
Q: How would you characterize the internet now?
A: I think the internet's just become part of our life...